Champions for Change Part 2 : Yes, Prime Minister!

By Madan Padaki

As mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to be part of ‘Champions of Change’ event organised by the NITI Aayog. A unique event with an extended hand shake by the Government of India – inviting 400 champions to think, collaborate and develop solutions for the challenges facing the country.

It was wonderful to see that the attendees included not just CEOs & entrepreneurs from India Inc, but Who’s Who from the Government – Ministers, Secretaries, Sector Experts, etc.

So, it is with much anticipation and excitement that I reached Delhi on the 21st of August. After registration, we were allocated into groups as per the various topics. My group was on ‘Doubling farmer’s income by 2022’. In my last article, I had also shared my views on how this could be achieved.

After much brain storming and diverse perspectives, our group of 30-odd people collaborated extensively to create a framework that we believed would help achieve this objective. We named the framework as ‘SPEED’ as an acronym for the drivers to double farmer’s income: Shared Services, Processing, Education, Entrepreneurship, Demand & Diversification.

In a nutshell, the key recommendations >

> Creating 1 million ‘Agri-preneurs’ to deliver agri-services to 100 million farmers

> Building e-marketplaces to connect processing entities & farmers

> Focussing on agri-education at three levels – farmers, agri-preneurs and agro-professionals (agronomists)

> Moving from subsidy to impact investment – empowering the kisaan as an entrepreneur

>Encouraging demand driven thinking and creating Indian superfood brands

We presented the framework to Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi the following day. With rapt attention, the PM, ministers and all secretaries listened and engaged in discussions. This in itself was a terrific experience and it changed perspectives of so many of us on engaging with the Government.

The PM encouraged all of us leaders to take the solutions forward in whatever way we could with assured support from the Government. While the energy of the event was heady, it also made us realise the daunting task that faces the country and the responsibility that we all carry!

In all this, there were a few things that stood out for me:

–         The focus on farmers – very rightly so. But, the view of a farmer is still someone in need of loans and subsidies. I believe that to double household incomes, we must look at the farmer as an entrepreneur, extend this view to the household (the farmer’s wife/children) and empower them to generate alternate sources of income – in their own villages.

–         The Government seems to be very serious about creating millions of jobs. However, the narrative seems to be still very much on people finding jobs and someone (industries) creating jobs rather than encouraging entrepreneurship to take strong roots. It is in this context that I was happy to see the concept of ‘Agripreneurs’ take prominence in our recommendations. Most farmers operate on small pieces of land, often not employing anyone. If we were to look at each farmer as an entrepreneur who could employ 1 more person – I believe our outlook to the farmer would change. We would then start looking at him/her as a small enterprise. The number of farmers in India is debatable – ranging from 95 Mn direct farmers to ~500 Mn who are farmers/ indirectly depend on farming. Even if we consider the lowest of the numbers, and apply a single digit % of farmers who could employ more people – the potential is obvious!

I found resonance of the above thoughts in two other stalwarts which strengthened my conviction in the work that we are doing at 1Bridge- of creating entrepreneurs in rural India, largely from the farming communities.

The first was Shri. Giriraj Singh – Minister of State, Ministry of MSME. My question in the open house to Shri. Jaitley on how we could create 5 million job-creators who can then create 10 jobs each, struck a chord with him. He sought me out post this session and we had a fantastic conversation on strengthening the micro-entrepreneurs and creating various opportunities for entrepreneurs. I am looking forward to working with him closely on this!

The second gentleman was Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog. I got an opportunity to explain my views and our efforts at 1Bridge – not only did our work impress him, he believed it was important for the PM to hear it. And he made sure of it!

As the PM came in to interact with all of us during tea time, Mr. Kant beckoned me towards the PM and requested him to listen to me. I briefly talked about creating Abundance Ambassadors and explained the concept. The PM listened intently, asked a couple of questions on how much they earn, etc. and said ‘bahut accha kaam kar rahe ho aap’ (“you are doing very good work”). I guess that was the highlight of the event for me!! And yes, I did get my selfie with him too 😊

These two days of interactions gave us a lot more impetus and energy to the work we do at 1Bridge – in creating rural entrepreneurs, and connected with a lot of other driven individuals to explore collaborative efforts!

Yes, Prime Minister – we will work together in building a stronger and more resilient India! Jai Hind!

Champions for Change Part 2 : Yes, Prime Minister!

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